After previewing the quarterbacks and skill positions, Mitchell Northam and I will take a look at the defensive side of the ball. Both offenses run a similar triple option offense, so both defenses will be looking to stop the rushing attack and limit big plays.
CT: For Army, this season has been a defensive let down. They are surrendering 34 points a game, which ranks them 109th in the country. The issue has been in their inability to create pressure in passing situations, which has allowed team of equal or lesser talent (Buffalo, Wake Forest, Yale, Ball State, Connecticut, and Fordham), mount 4th quarter comebacks, with Wake and Yale completing those comebacks. Even against Stanford, they limited the Cardinal to only 21 points through three quarters, then surrendered two scores in the 4th quarter. While some blame can be placed on the offense for stalling on drives, the defense struggles containing receivers with no pass rush.
The good news: Navy only passes for about 88 yards a game, ranked 127th in the country and directly ahead of Army (65 yards a game). That means the front seven of Army will have to contain Keenan Reynolds and company on the ground. While the Black Knights are mostly seniors on the offensive side of the ball, the defense is littered with young talent. Sophomore linebacker Jeremy Timpf leads the team with 70 solo tackles, including 12 against Air Force (who also runs a version of the triple option). Timpf also has three interceptions, tied for 2nd on the team with junior cornerback Chris Carnegie. Carnegie is 4th on the team in total tackles with 51, 43 being solo tackles.
The star of the defense though, is cornerback Josh Jenkins. Also a sophomore, he leads the team with four interceptions and is second in solo tackles with 49. While Army has only accumulated 9 sacks this season (tied for 125th in the country and 4 more than Navy), four of those sacks belong to yet another sophomore in linebacker Andrew King. King has also recorded 27 solo tackles, and his 52 total tackles is good for 3rd best on the team.
Between Timpf, Jenkins, Carnegie and King are about 40% of Army's total tackles. The combination of Jenkins and Carnegie in the secondary and King and Timpf patrolling the middle of the field give the Black Knights a bright future in what has been their Achilles heel all season. But they will be tested against the most productive scoring quarterback in NCAA history in Reynolds.
MN: The Midshipmen have been pretty atrocious on defense all year. Yea, Parrish Gaines has the ability to cause turn overs and be a ball hawk, but the line struggles to get pressure, and the backs seem to always give up "the big play" or two.
One defender that has been awesome lately has been William Anthony. He has gone from backup to playmaker in a matter of weeks, and most recently against South Alabama, he registered 12 tackles, including a sack. The junior defensive end leads the team with eight tackles for loss and second to defensive line mate Paul Quessenberry with four quarterback hurries.
With a decent D-Line, and a solid group of linebackers the Mids do a decent job of stopping the run - probably because they practice against it so much - but the passing game continues to hurt them.
Against Army, the Mids best defense might be to keep Army's offense off the field and grind the clock down with their running game.
EDGE: Both teams have some weaknesses. However, the only major statistical category that Army is better at than Navy is sacks (by 4), and in a game where neither team is looking to sling the ball around, sacks will be irrelevant. Therefore, Navy takes the edge in overall defense. Better numbers against better competition (Navy played Ohio State and Notre Dame while Army played Stanford and surrendered 49 to Yale).